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Autism Queensland Research
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Participate in a research project

High quality research is essential to enable better understanding of autism and to develop improved supports in the future.

Why should you get involved?

Researchers are always looking for participants for their projects – the more participants, the greater the chances of meaningful results that reflect the wide range of issues that people on the autism spectrum and their families face. So get involved where you can – it will help improve their knowledge and it may benefit you!

Disclaimer: Autism Queensland aims to support research that promises to inform future directions of services for individuals on the spectrum and their families. Although we screen each project before advertising, we do not necessarily endorse the views, activities or organisations of researchers.


Projects seeking participants

Contact details of all researchers are provided for each of our projects. If you are interested in participating in a study please click on those of the following you believe will be of interest. This list is updated regularly and includes research being undertaken externally and by Autism Queensland.

The Australian Autism Biobank Study

Participants required:
  • Children aged 2-17 years who are on the Autism Spectrum and their siblings.
  • Children aged 2-17 years with no diagnosis of Autism Spectrum in the Family as our Control population.
Project description:

The Australian Autism Biobank Study is now recruiting families who may be interested in participating. The biobank is a National Study and in Queensland is a joint partnership between the Autism CRC, Mater Research Institute and Children’s Health Queensland. The aim of the biobank is to collect detailed information on Australian children with autism and their families.

Participation in the study involves the completion of questionnaires about the child and family, a clinical assessment where the child is asked to participate in various child-friendly games and activities, and the collection of biological samples, including a blood sample, from the child and their family.

Benefit to participants:

While families may not benefit directly from this study, this data will be used to facilitate our understanding of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) as well as for earlier and more accurate diagnosis of ASD in children.

The creation of the Australian Autism Biobank is likely to make a significant contribution to the understanding of ASD etiology. A clearer understanding of the range of genetic and environmental variations that contribute to the occurrence of ASD may provide added insight into the regulation of brain development, which, in turn may open up opportunities for developing more effective treatment of the condition. Significant developments in our understanding of what causes ASD can only be made by studying large numbers of affected individuals. The creation of the Australian Autism Biobank is an essential first step in obtaining sufficient data, which may eventually lead to significant gains in our knowledge of how to identify, diagnose and treat people with ASD.

Please visit the Biobank website for more information.

To participate in the Queensland site of the Australian Autism Biobank, or for more information about this study, please contact the Autism Biobank Research Team:
P. 0435 860 506
E. autism.biobank@mater.uq.edu.au

Can we reduce (or prevent) anxiety in preschool children with autism?

Participants required:
  • Parents of children with autism (aged 4-5) who plan to start school in 2021 in South East Queensland.

Parents of children with all levels of ability are welcome to participate.

As this is an intervention which aims to prevent as well as reduce anxiety, children do not need to show any signs or anxiety or have a diagnosis of an anxiety disorder to take part.

Project description:

We want to test a 6-session parent group that has been specifically designed to prevent or reduce anxiety in preschoolers on the autism spectrum.  We are interested to see if it has an immediate benefit and then to see if any benefits are maintained once the child begins school.

Parents will be asked to attend a six session parent group. The parent groups will run during school Terms (Term 2, 3 and 4) at Logan, Mount Gravatt, South Bank and a location on the northside. Recruitment is happening across the year and parents will be offered groups in the Term and the location that works best for them.

All session are run by an experienced qualified Clinical Psychologist (A/Prof Dawn Adams) and are free for parents.

In order to measure any benefits of the intervention, we will ask parents and children to complete assessments when they enrol into the study, at short-term follow up (approx. 3 months later) and at long-term follow up (1 year later).

Benefit to participants:

Assessment Reports: The research team will provide parents with confidential reports on the results of assessments administered during the study. These reports will include details about the child’s level of IQ and adaptive functioning. Parents can share these reports with anyone you like as it may assist in providing others with further information on your child’s ability and skills.

Thank You: To thank you for parents ongoing participation in this study, gift cards will be provided after the completion of each assessment stage. The value of these cards increases as we progress through the research to reflect the continuing commitment to the study: $25 after the initial assessments, $50 after the short-term follow-up assessments, and $100 after the one-year follow-up assessments.

To participate or for more information contact:

Ms. Robyn Garland, Project Coordinator

e. coolforschool@griffith.edu.au

p. (07) 3382 1510

Combined Gut-brain Treatment for Children with Autism

Participants Required:

Children with autism and gut issues, aged 5-10 years.

Description of Project:

Background: Children with autism are four (4) times more likely to suffer with gut issues (tummy and bowel problems) than children without autism.  Research has linked both gut issues and autism to changes within the two-way communication network called the gut-brain axis.  Gut issues are also linked to increased severity of autistic behaviours and independently to anxiety/depression.

Aim:  To reduce gut issues in children with autism, with possible improvements in autism severity and anxiety scores.

Study Design:  This study is a randomised clinical trial.  If your child is enrolled, they will be randomly allocated to one of two 12-week treatment intervention groups:

1) synbiotic (prebiotic + probiotic supplement) or 2) synbiotic + home-based therapy program.

You and your child will be required to complete questionnaires and stool samples at the start and end of the 12-week period.  There will also be a follow-up at week 24 to assess if any improvements have been maintained.

Benefits to Participants:

We cannot promise your child will receive a benefit from participating in this study. The main potential benefit from this study is reduced tummy/bowel symptoms and/or improved stool consistency.  Other possible benefits include improved balance of “good” and “bad” gut bacteria, reduced anxiety/stress levels and reduced autism severity scores.

Contact Details:

E. leanne.mitchell@uq.edu.au
P. 0414 689 850

This research is part of the Doctoral degree of Mrs Leanne Mitchell (Principal Investigator) and is sponsored by the University of Queensland.

Does repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS), compared to sham rTMS, improve social communication in adolescents and young adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD)?

Participants Required:

People between 14 and 40 years of age with a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder may be eligible to join this study.
Participants with a history of seizures, an implanted medical device, or moderate to severe intellectual disability cannot participate in this study.

Description of Project:

Background: Many individuals with ASD experience difficulty with social functioning; for example, in understanding what other people are thinking or feeling. This may cause significant distress and lead to difficulties and anxiety in social situations. There are very few intervention options for improving abilities related to social functioning in ASD.

Aim: The aim of this project is to determine whether rTMS can be used to improve social function. rTMS is a safe and non-invasive means of stimulating nerve cells in a particular part of the brain via the administration of brief magnetic pulses. rTMS has been developed as a intervention for major depressive disorder, and we have previously found that rTMS can benefit social aspects of ASD.

Methodology: In this study we will stimulate a region of the brain that is involved in social understanding and social communication. This region is called the right temporoparietal junction, or rTPJ.

Some participants will receive the real form of rTMS, while others will receive a sham or placebo form. The sham or placebo form mimics the feeling of rTMS, but no brain stimulation is delivered. You will not know which one you receive until the end of your involvement in the study. Those who received the sham or placebo form will be given the opportunity to undergo the real rTMS intervention at the end of their involvement in the study.

Participants will come in for multiple sessions across an 8-month period. The sessions will involve MRI brain scans, the TMS sessions, genetic analysis, cognitive testing, and clinical assessments.

150 people (aged 14-40 years) will take part in this study, which is being conducted throughout Australia. There are sites in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, and Perth. Participants will be recruited from around Australia, but primarily the greater metropolitan regions within these five cities. In Brisbane we are looking for 30 participants.

rTMS is an experimental intervention. This means that it is not an approved intervention for ASD in Australia or elsewhere.

Benefits to Participants:

We cannot guarantee or promise that you will receive any benefits from this research; however, possible benefits include an improvement in social understanding and functioning, including an increased ability to accurately infer what other people are thinking or feeling.

Survey link

Contact Details:

Dr Suzanne Harte
The University of Queensland
E. UQ_abic@uq.edu.au
P. 07 3069 7604

https://tmsautism.com/

ENACT: Environmental Enrichment for infants: parenting with Acceptance and Commitment Therapy

Participants Required:

We are looking to recruit pregnant women who have an older child diagnosed with ASD or either parent is diagnosed with ASD.  This is so that the intervention can commence antenatally or very early in the neonatal period.

For participants to be included in this study they must meet the following inclusion criteria:

(1) the infant’s mother must agree to the assessment requirements of the study;

(2) the infant must have one or more biological siblings diagnosed with ASD, or a biological parent (mother or father) diagnosed with ASD; and

(3) As ENACT uses integrated web-based delivery, parents are required to have reliable internet access at home (e.g. ADSL) and must be committed to maintaining internet access for the duration of the study.

The study will exclude potential participants in the case of:

(1) the parents having insufficient English to complete the assessment requirements; or

(2) families who identify at recruitment that they are unwilling to return for the outcome assessments at 6 months and 12 months of age.

(3) infants with a known chromosomal or neurological condition prior to study enrolment

Project Description:

Background: Infant siblings of older children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) are at an increased risk of a diagnosis of ASD. From 6-12 months of age there are prodromal symptoms of ASD in the domains of motor skills, motor planning, visual attention, visual perception and affect regulation. This can impact on parent-infant interaction and language, social and cognitive development. In addition, mothers of infants at risk of ASD are at risk of poorer mental health when compared to the general population due to the complexity of managing ASD. Currently, there are no trials that have been conducted with infants at risk of ASD younger than six months of age.

Aims: The aim of this research is to test the efficacy of an innovative early intervention, ENACT, for families of infants at risk of ASD through a randomised controlled trial with ENACT compared to care as usual, and testing the effect of the intervention in improving the parent-child relationship and infant developmental outcomes.

Benefits to Participants:

There are currently no evidence-based interventions available to parent of infants younger than 6 months of age who are at risk of Autism Spectrum Disorder. Families who are randomised to the intervention group will get early access to a novel intervention program that aims to enrich the life of their family. Parents will also play a role in refining the content of the program. All families will get comprehensive developmental assessments at the conclusion of the study, when their baby is 12 months old.  Families will receive a copy of this report.

Access project

For more information:

Miss Kavindri Kulasinghe or Dr Andrea McGlade

(07) 3069 7547 or enact.qcprrc@uq.edu.au

Home Literacy Practices of Australian School-Aged Children with or without Autism

Participants Required:

We are looking for parents/caregivers of Australian school-aged children (Foundation Year to Grade 6) who have or have not been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. You will be asked to complete an online survey about your child’s literacy and reading-related activities at home. Your participation will also include completion of the Autism Spectrum Quotient (AQ), which is not diagnostic. The survey will take approximately 15-20 minutes to complete.

Project Description:

The study (GU Ref No: 2021/126) is part of a larger program of research that aims to improve literacy outcomes for students on the autism spectrum through (a) understanding the diversity of reading strengths and needs, (b) helping teachers and therapists to identify students at risk of reading difficulties, and (c) identifying factors that predict literacy outcomes. This study aims to extend the existing literature by understanding the opportunities available for children to engage in reading and related activities at home and in the community, and to investigate whether this changes across development / year of schooling. This research study also forms a component of the Master of Clinical Psychology student’s academic program.

Benefits to Participants:

While we do not expect any direct benefits to you for participating in this research, we hope our research will provide insight into literacy-related experiences of children with and without autism to inform future interventions.

Access survey

For more information please contact:

Student Researcher: Fanoula Thomolaris

e. fanoula.thomolaris@griffithuni.edu.au

Supervisor: Dr Jessica Paynter

e. j.paynter@griffith.edu.au

What Impacts the Mental Health and Wellbeing of Autistic Adults?

Participants Required:

You can take part if you:
1. Are aged 18+ years
2. Have a diagnosis of autism OR self-identify as autistic
3. Do not have an intellectual disability
4. Are proficient in English
5. Have access to the internet

Project Description:

This study will investigate risk and protective factors that may impact the mental health and wellbeing of autistic adults, including anxiety, depression and autistic burnout.

You will be asked to complete an anonymous online survey that will take approximately 45 minutes of your time, but you can take breaks if needed.

Benefits to Participants:

We hope that learning more about predictors of mental health and wellbeing will help improve supports for autistic adults to enhance their quality of life.

After completing the survey, you can enter the draw to win 1 of 5 $50 Coles gift vouchers.

Access survey

For more information please contact:

Jane Mantzalas – PhD candidate

e. j.mantzalas@latrobe.edu.au

Professor Amanda Richdale – Chief Investigator

e. a.richdale@latrobe.edu.au

Young people including those on the autism spectrum transitioning to adulthood: Experiences of violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation

Participants required:

This project is seeking:

  • Young people on the autism spectrum, either with or without intellectual disability, aged between 15 to 30 years
  • Family members of young people on the autism spectrum aged 15 to 30 years
  • Practitioners who have supported young people on the autism spectrum.
Description of project:

This project will contribute to the research agenda of the Disability Royal Commission (DRC) by seeking to understand the perspectives of young people, including those on the autism spectrum, who experience violence and harm during their transition to adulthood. The researchers are interested in speaking to young people from a diverse range of experiences, including First Nations young people, Culturally and Linguistically Diverse young people and young people from LGBTIQ+ communities. The research will also be informed by the views of the families and supporters of young people in their social networks and by professionals in the disability and other relevant human service sectors who have indirect or vicarious experience of the harm done to young people, including those on the autism spectrum.

Aims:

Findings and recommendations from this research will inform the DRC’s final report to the Governor-General in 2022.  The research will support the work of the DRC in its advisory capacity to the Australian Government, providing recommendations that will be aimed at: (1) informing the DRC about the ways in which governments, institutions and the community can support the human rights of young people, including those on the autism spectrum to live lives free from violence; (2) mitigating the impact of violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation against young people, including those on the autism spectrum; and (3) developing effective systemic responses to reports of abuse, violence, neglect and exploitation against young people, including those on the autism spectrum.

Methodology:

Participants will be interviewed either face-to-face, online via videoconferencing, or via phone.  Interviews will be conducted by experienced researchers who will approach the issues sensitively and confidentially – and will adapt their communication style for participants to ensure their full understanding and participation.

Benefits to participants:

There is no direct benefit for participants, other than the opportunity to share both positive and negative experiences in young people’s lives.  There are broader benefits to young people such as those on the autism spectrum, as the findings from this research will inform the DRC in its advisory capacity to the Australian Government.  The study will offer recommendations to the DRC as to effective responses to incidents of abuse.

Contact details:

To participate in this project please contact Dr Kathy Ellem:

E. k.ellem@uq.edu.au
P. 0426 816 595

Researchers

If you would like to have your project listed on our site, please click here.

For more information please contact the Research Team